Leighton Clarkson insists Aberdeen have not been suffering from a European hangover.
The Dons took one point from their two league games which followed the first and second legs of their Europa League play-off tie against Sweden’s BK Hacken and are still waiting for their first Premiership win of the campaign.
Aberdeen supporters made their feelings known to manager Barry Robson and the players following the 2-0 defeat to Hibernian before the international break, booing the side off the pitch.
But Clarkson does not believe his side’s poor showing was due to their European involvement – and remains confident his team will click into gear.
He said: “We were disappointed with the result against Hibs, but I don’t think it was a hangover from Europe because they played Aston Villa in Europe as well.
“We weren’t at the races. There wasn’t a lot of quality in the game and they managed to score when we were starting to put pressure on them, and then they scored a second.
“We are all still positive and it is a marathon not a sprint, and we want to pick up points.”
‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint’
Having been part of a rollercoaster campaign while on loan from Liverpool last season, Clarkson, who returned to Pittodrie on a permanent deal in the summer, believes a sense of perspective is in order.
The Dons may be in 11th place with two points from four games, but Clarkson insists there is little cause for alarm.
He said: “You should never get too high or down. The boys are very positive and have been training really well.
“There has been ups and downs for other teams as well, but that is the beauty of starting a new season.
“It is the same for every team and we need to get to know each other.
“We have a good number of lads from last year and there are a few new boys, and we are looking to settle and get the tactical side right.”
Midfielder looking for improvement
Clarkson, for his part, knows he has personal room for improvement.
Having started every game, the midfielder was named as a substitute for the last match against Hibs, and he is looking to not only meet the standard he set last season, but exceed it.
Clarkson said: “I feel I can do a lot better.
“Last year, probably from January, I managed to hit form. I felt I was consistent.
“But it is not just me, it is every player – we have to find our rhythm.
“I want to do better than I did last season. That was one of the reasons why I came back.
“It is a great platform. I want to do better than I did, I want to score more goals and (get) more assists and be vital to the team.”
Clarkson targets first win at Tynecastle
The Dons return to action today against Hearts at Tynecastle.
Both sides have struggled to find form early in the campaign, but Clarkson knows he and his team-mates will need to be at their best to get a result.
He said: “I enjoy playing there. I was there at the end of last season and it was a good atmosphere, although we lost.
“We want to go there to get a positive result and go there confident. We need to start picking up points.
“We need to start another run and we want to start this Saturday to kick-start our season.
“It is disappointing to have two points from four games, but with the players we have in there, the squad and the coaching staff, we will be okay.”
Europe is no distraction for the Dons players
Following this afternoon’s game in the capital, the Dons will begin their Europa Conference League campaign with a trip to Germany to face 2022 Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
With matches against HJK Helsinki and PAOK to follow, Clarkson knows a testing group stage lies ahead – but for now his focus is firmly on Tynecastle.
He said: “I don’t think it will be a distraction because it is a different competition. You have the other competitions that come soon as well.
“The new lads will see it is a bit different from where they have been before.
“We’ve had the first two games and most of the boys have seen what it is going to be like from there.
“We have Hearts, Frankfurt and Rangers at some point. These are big games and a good platform.
“But Europe is not in any of our minds, at this moment in time.
“We know we have a job to do on Saturday. We want to go there to get a positive result.”